Trotter on Labour’s Mafia or Breaking Bad tendencies

Chris Trotter has written a ripper of an article that I was unaware of until he posted it on Bowalley Road:

“JUST WHEN I THOUGHT I was out … they pull me back in.” Michael Corleone’s oft-quoted protest from The Godfather Part III could just as easily have escaped the lips of Andrew Little.

The New Zealand Labour Party, like the New York Mafia, is a seething cauldron of thwarted ambitions, petty jealousies and unresolved grievances. It takes a Godfather (or Godmother) of exceptional strength and ruthlessness to keep all that bad feeling under control and out of sight. Peter Fraser and Norman Kirk could do it. So could Helen Clark. For a while, Little appeared to be getting the hang of it. Such optimism now seems misplaced.

Why is the Labour Party so fractious? So willing to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory? The answer lies in the huge discrepancy between what the Labour Party was supposed to be, and what it has actually become.  

Personally, I blame Helen Clark. In order to rule the party she had to first factionalise it, then keep each faction at the throats of the others to diminish their power.

It’s the paradox that explains Labour’s perpetual state of internal distress. Like the Mafia, all social-democratic governments are obliged to present themselves to their communities as faithful friends and protectors (Godfathers!) even as they organise and grow fat off the very activities that are tearing those communities apart.

The trick, of course, is to accentuate the former while drawing a hefty veil over the latter. The corrupt union leader brags to his members about extorting higher wages from their cowering bosses. He does not boast about emptying the Union Pension Fund in return for Mafia muscle.

Loyal Labour voters will balk at this Mafia analogy. The very idea that social-democracy involves giving with one hand, while taking with the other, will strike them as outrageous. But this kind of brute transactional politics has always come naturally to the trade unions out of which Labour grew – and working-class voters expect no less. If Capitalism cannot be taken down, then, at the very least, it should be shaken down.

Which is why the unions strong armed Andrew Little into the position of leader.

Take this too far, of course, and the bosses begin enlisting muscle of their own. When that happens Labour makes a point of being “neither for, nor against” the targets of employer violence. Voters need to understand that this sort of treachery isn’t personal – it’s just politics.

Is Chris Trotter suggesting some dirty politics? Justifying it even? Of course he is, he was never one to criticise dirty politics. To him, as it is to me, it is just the game of politics.

Labour’s problem in the 1980s was exactly the same as the Mafia’s. The boss-class finally decided to stop paying. Like the big crime families, the trade unions were taken down. Deprived of their working-class muscle, Labour in New Zealand, and social-democrats all around the world, had little option but to go straight and turn legit. Now it is Capitalism they are pledged to building up.

The problem, of course, is that the capitalists already have their own political party. Accordingly, Labour’s current electoral strategy seems to involve: waiting until the National Party runs out of puff, and then presenting itself to New Zealand Capitalism as a temporary alternative government while the exhausted Nats get their breath back.

Andrew Little may dream of getting out of this Fake Labour Party, but his dysfunctional political family will always pull him back in.

If that is their strategy then Labour are doomed. As our poll yesterday showed people think the economy is the single biggest issue, as without a functioning economy the socialism cannot be paid for. In that regard Bill English has the credentials for a stable economy and Grant Robertson and Andrew Little do not.


-Bowalley Road

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.